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"Saving Zero" Episode 3 Excerpt Dark Knight Rising

TV antBy Dan burns

Here's another excerpt from my TV sitcom series, “Saving Zero." My writing partners are Sandra Williams, theater director and Artist in Residence with the Oklahoma Arts Council, and Robert Reynolds from the Actors Studio, NYC.  We’ve outlined a full-season series of 22-minute episodes and are scripting three episodes on spec.  We’re looking for a producer.

I’m writing this based on my experience as a co-founder and fundraiser for a group home in Austin, Texas.  In my sitcom, Josh -- father of Benjy, a 25-year-old son with autism -- intends to establish an archipelago of group homes, ranches, and villages where teens and young adults with autism can find or create jobs. But Zero, a new arrival at Hope Ranch, has no intention of working. He intends to sabotage the ranch and pursue his destiny. 

Maybe you’ve seen “Speechless,” comedy series about a mom on a mission who will do anything for JJ, her eldest son with cerebral palsy.  Like Speechless, my series focuses on the struggles facing staff and ASD residents at the Ranch. 

This excerpt is from Episode 3, "Zero’s Path."  As the scene opens, Josh and Zero have left the Texas Capitol building and are walking south on Congress Avenue  toward the Paramount Theater.  Enjoy! 




The marquee displays "Dark Knight Rising." Under the marquee, a Girl Scout cookie table has been turned over and the GIRL SCOUTS are on their hands and knees on the sidewalk picking up cookies. A trail of crumbs and box parts leads from there to a parked police car. The GIRL SCOUT MOTHER is glaring at the OFFICER (female, about 30) holding Benjy in a wrist lock, preparing to handcuff him. Josh and Zero rush toward scene, Josh in the lead. Benjy is twisting and turning.

JOSH: Ben!


OFFICER: Step back.

Josh is agitated, keeping it together.

JOSH: He’s mine. Please, this is my son.  He has autism.

Officer secures the handcuffs.

OFFICER: Got some ID?

JOSH: Yes. 

Josh reaches for his billfold. It’s gone.

JOSH: Zero, where’s my billfold?

Zero is admiring the “Dark Knight Rising” posters. He hands Josh the billfold.

ZERO: I was gonna get tickets for the show.

JOSH (getting out his driver’s license to officer): What happened? 

OFFICER: He did this. He wouldn’t tell me his name.

GIRL SCOUT MOTHER angrily approaches Josh and holds out her hand. Josh slaps a wad of bills in her hand. She goes back to the girls.

JOSH: He has a disability. (holding in his fear and anger) He ... doesn’t ... talk. He can’t say his name. Why are you restraining him?

OFFICER: He disobeyed a direct order from a police officer. He resisted arrest.

JOSH: He’s autistic. He’s frightened.

OFFICER: That doesn’t justify him disobeyin’ a police officer.

Benjy is trying to push the officer away.

JOSH: (to Benjy): It’ll be OK, Benjy. Tell the officer you’re sorry.

Benjy turns his head away.

JOSH: Benjy, say “I’m sorry.”

BENJY: Uh sa.


JOSH: Good, Benjy. Thank you.

Benjy is crying. Officer makes her decision and removes the handcuffs. Benjy curls into Josh's arms.

ZERO (approaching officer): May I ask you a question?

OFFICER: Who are you?

JOSH: He's with me. Unfortunately.

ZERO: Where can I buy an AK-47?

JOSH: In hell, your next stop. (to police officer) Want this one?


Dan Burns is Contributing Editor to Age of Autism.


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Dan E. Burns

Nancy, Angus, Eileen, thanks for your comments. You keep me writing!


Thanks, Dan, for posting another compelling scene from your lively screenplay. Upon reading it I reflexively thought, "That police department really needs to hear from Dennis Debbaudt."

Debbaudt's Autism Risk & Safety Management site has posted a video showing a recent autism and first response awareness training session in Saint Lucie County, Florida.


angus files

That Sesame Street article yesterday really perturbed me - back to normal here - most of I can relate to..

Great stuff Pharma for Prison


Patience (Eileen Nicole) Simon

Dan, this is excellent! I am glad you are getting help from from people in theatrical arts. I hope you find a producer soon.

In future interactions with the police (perhaps the same female officer) I hope you can reveal that law enforcement professionals often show greater understanding than those who work within the broken "mental health" system.

Local and state police in Massachusetts have been the most helpful in locating my son who frequently runs away from his group home. Emergency room psychiatrists discharge my son to the streets (with the homeless) after asking if he poses a danger to himself or others.

Your character Zero was able (I believe) to finagle a period of inpatient respite with his responses to questions of suicidal or homicidal intent.

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